Burak Paksoy
Gonzalo Delacamara
Economics of Sustainability



Improvement or Quagmire
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey and one of the major cities of the world. The population is officially 14,4 million by the end of 2014, but in fact it has passed 15 million today which means that Istanbul is larger than 177 countries in the world in terms of population. The city has maintained its significance since the Byzantine and Ottoman periods but its dramatic growth started in the 1950’s parallel to Turkey’s rapid industrialization. A huge immigration began from the countryside to this most industrialized city of Turkey which still continues at the present time.
“Turkey′s construction industry is booming. As a key pillar of the nation’s economy, President Erdogan’s ambitious goal is to ensure it catapults Turkey into the world’s top ten economies by 2023. But the AKP’s ″urban transformation project″ has many downsides.”(Ceyda Nurtsch, Beyond istanbul)

image reference

1 naldzgraphics.net

Istanbul is a huge building site. Large-scale construction projects continue all around the the city. The city that is already home to millions proceed to grow beyond its capacity, and for some people it must be expanded. For instance, a third airport planned and started building also a third bridge over the Bosphorus, Even a canal project is going to be built in the heart of the city. At the same time, all neighborhoods are demolished or redeveloped in terms of earthquake specifications.
The current government launched this enormous destruction and redevelopment project, which is carried out between the public sector and private investors, in 2004. But there has been growing criticism of this ″urban transformation project″, resulting in the Gezi protests of the summer of 2013. Demonstrations were held over plans to build a shopping mall on the city’s central Taksim Square.
This urban development projects are fairly related with economy because the main aspect is to gain money from these investments. Especially in social housing projects in Istanbul , here it is difficult to say that there is a certain distinction between reclaiming some important urban area or destructing it. To question these architectural and social problems a few young people established an organisation in 2011. They aimed to find an architectural solutions to these issues. And today, hundreds of volunteers work on a variety of projects. These range from seminars on the establishment of parks and playgrounds, right through to the re-design of empty buildings into schools equipped for the disabled. All participation is on a voluntary basis and financed through donations. They are all part of Beyond Istanbul organization So, that group of people have an impact on other people and raised our awareness.
Yasar Adanali who recently composed his thesis on the subject of international urban development. He is also critical of the the current government’s (AKP) urban policy. He explains that the concept of ″urban transformation″ has been kept deliberately obscure on paper. It may refer to restoration, the creation of new jobs, improving the housing situation, or safeguarding against earthquakes. ″But in practice, it is all about the economic potential of the location in question,″ says Adanali (Beyond Istanbul). ″Reconstruction measures are carried out without considering the historic features of the building or the needs of those living there.″


This all causes weak and marginalised population groups especially vulnerable to the urban transformation process: such as the Kurds in Istanbul′s Ayazma district, the Roma in Sulukule, or the migrants in Tarlabasi. Sooner or later they have all had to leave their neighbourhoods. Either because they were forcibly relocated, or because they could no longer afford their rent.
In the quest for alternatives, Adanali and his team have taken on the task of making the invisible sides of the transformation visible. For example, they are compiling maps, such as one entitled the ″forced eviction map″. With his Beyond Istanbul team, he also organises themed city tours, focusing among other things on the ecological impact of these mega projects. Adanali is basically in favour of improvement and change, but not in the way currently favoured by the public and private sectors. Focusing solely on the generation of capital is, in his view, It looks quick and short term solution but an unsustainable approach.
The journalist Miyase Ilknur goes a step further in her criticism. She says that in the case of the AKP, it is clearly about the transfer of capital, since the construction projects are located in the most lucrative parts of the city and the contracts are always given to the same companies – companies with links to the government. One example is Tarlabasi, an area designated for redevelopment just below Taksim Square. It is scheduled to be modernised by a firm called Calik, and the company′s CEO is the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdogan.


″If this is really about making houses better able to withstand earthquakes, why is work not starting in areas along the fault line, in Avcilar and Pendik, for instance?″ wonders the journalist. She concludes that this kind of transformation destroys the environment, violates human rights and annihilates the diverse mosaic of communities established over time, as well as the historic fabric of the houses themselves.
Transformation of these neighbourhoods is followed by immediate waves of speculation: prices rocket, former tenants can no longer afford to live in their old houses and are forced to move away. Or they are directly forced to relocate. Take Sulukule, for example, in the Fatih neighbourhood, the oldest Roma settlement in the world: when the first bulldozers rolled in there in 2005 with a police escort, to demolish the houses, the move triggered a wave of protests.

One of those who joined the outcry was the economist and urban activist Funda Oral. Together with other activists she founded the ″Sulukule Platform″ and attempted to prevent the demolition of the area. In vain. She is however convinced that her work was not for nothing.
″People became aware of the Roma’s situation, they saw that they have their own culture and today we have our first Roma members of parliament,″ she says. Now helping them to get rid of the devastating effects of this. Moreover, she adds that the Roma themselves developed greater self-confidence. ″They are prouder of their identity and at the same time, they can see the problems they face within society – for example, the fact that most of them are uneducated,″ says the activist. Ironically, the constitutional court later declared the demolition of the neighbourhood to be illegal.


After all these efforts, we have seen that it would no longer be possible to demolish a neighbourhood in such a bad manner. When we take stock of the overall situation in Istanbul, it is certain: sooner or later, this urban model will fail. Driving small businesses and locals out of a neighbourhood to make way for hotels and cafes filled by wealthier people from elsewhere, it′s an unsustainable vision.
But until that day, it remains to be seen how many forests will be cut down, how many historic buildings destroyed and how many residents driven from their homes. On the other hand, We all know that urban development is necessary and expected but to do that in efficient way there should be urban expert committe which controls and manage this development in appropriate. With this way, we can obtain healty environment. There is a glimmer of hope: we will break the impasse and clean this quagmire as soonas possible. And from my point of view, we as an architects have to pursue this venue until we achieve the best result.